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Georgia Southern realizes goal of new Engineering and Research Building to equip students, researchers and industry

Georgia Southern has officially opened its new Engineering and Research Building for students and researchers, a facility that will serve as the epicenter for engineering excellence and innovation in southeast Georgia. The building is designed to facilitate academic and institutional partnerships, inspire creative engineering and accelerate academic success for students in the College of Engineering and Computing. Through the instructional research labs and academic spaces that bridge theory and practice, students will be prepared to solve today’s challenges and to make tomorrow’s discoveries.

“The Engineering and Research Building will greatly enhance our research capabilities as well as opportunities for our faculty to engage students in hands-on research and teaching projects,” said Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and Computing Dean Mohammad S. Davoud, Ph.D. “It will also increase our faculty’s ability to develop collaborative research projects with local industry and agency partners.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony held Friday featured University President Kyle Marrero, Regent C. Everett Kennedy III, Georgia Southern student and ROTC cadet James Miles, Georgia House Majority Leader Jon Burns, and Georgia Power President Chris Womack. 

Regent Don Waters, Regent C. Everett Kennedy III; Cadet James Miles; Georgia House Majority Leader Jon Burns; Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero; Dean of the Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and Computing Mohammad S. Davoud, Ph.D.; Georgia Power President Chris Womack; Georgia Sen. Billy Hickman; and Georgia Rep. Butch Parrish cut the ribbon on the new Engineering and Research Building.

One robot delivered scissors to the president to use in the ribbon-cutting, then another robot programmed by students and faculty of the manufacturing engineering department helped to cut the ribbon. 

Speakers highlighted the facility’s capacity to train the next generation of engineers and how the new building contributes to the university’s legacy of providing work-ready graduates. 

“Today marks the culmination of years of forethought and investment from a number of state leaders, industry leaders and local advocates, who paved the way for us to be here,” said Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero. “Leaders who, dating back to the 90s, could see the future of a growing industry, a state on the precipice of being a national leader in technology and innovation, and a critical need to develop talent in applied engineering across south Georgia.”

The Engineering and Research Building’s sleek, contemporary environment defined by glass and natural light, soaring high-bay ceilings and modern, industrial feel is strengthened by new, industry-relevant equipment, instrumentation and technology that encourage active learning and sustainability. The highly efficient facility includes sustainable features that complements existing spaces on campus. 

The three-story building houses applied research spaces with a strong focus on manufacturing engineering, civil engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering. The workspaces can be easily reconfigured for various uses, projects and applications and provide students with access to industry-grade equipment as well as expanded opportunities for undergraduate research.

“The investment of the Engineering and Research Building solidifies Georgia Southern University’s commitment to students in providing a world-class education in the engineering field, while providing the space and resources necessary to facilitate such,” said student Kristifer Bell. “I am enthusiastic to continue my research work and look forward to the interdepartmental collaboration that will be encouraged through the housing of new student and faculty labs under one roof.” 

The new Engineering and Research building boasts of one of the Southeast’s only class 3 cleanrooms. The cleanroom, valued at $700,000, is a necessary space for manufacturing or scientific research that requires an environment with very low levels of pollutants such as dust, microbes, vapors or aerosol particles.

The 140,625-square-foot facility houses robotics and automated manufacturing labs, a nano materials manufacturing lab, a traditional and CNC finishing lab, a materials science and characterization lab, an industrial instrumentation and controls lab, a joining and welding lab, a renewable energy roof deck lab (solar, wind, weather), in addition to flexible research space and metal and non-metal 3D-printing spaces. Impressive high-bay spaces for large projects run nearly the length of a football field in the building. 

“The new Engineering and Research Building on campus will provide a great space to foster the growth of the University, both in research and engineering programs,” student Erin Dobeis said. “As an undergraduate student, I am eager to begin working in the new facility and have the tools necessary to dive deeper into my studies and research.”

Current faculty-led, student research projects include mobile robot applications in a manufacturing environment and automated robotic welding on exotic metals.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Laboratory for Advanced Power and Energy Systems (LAPES) enables modeling and hardware-in-the-loop testing of advanced power energy systems over a range of operational voltage levels. The lab also contains  equipment valued at more than $350,000, funded by the National Science Foundation.

The Building Environment and Modeling (BEaM) Laboratory, operated by the Department of Civil Engineering and Construction, houses drones and related equipment for digital ground and air-based surveying. The lab’s powerful computers process, visualize and support augmented reality to explore the 3D spaces.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Computational Fluid Dynamics Research Laboratory supports research on a range of multidimensional, multiphysics problems across a variety of industries. 

There are also labs for the Department of Manufacturing Engineering. They include a Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) Laboratory and CNC Laboratory, both of which are located in the high-bay area. The FMS Laboratory features fully configurable, automated, robotic manufacturing and an assembly production line. The CNC Laboratory, located near the FMS Laboratory, features industry-size and grade computer numerically controlled milling, routing and cutting tools. Upper-level students routinely use this equipment for prototype construction for course and industry projects. The Additive Manufacturing Laboratory, also operated by the department, is housed alone and separately off of the high-bay area to provide a safe environment to conduct applied research in 3D metal printing.

The Manufacturing Senior Capstone Studio is sponsored by Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation. 

Senior manufacturing engineering students spend two semesters to practice and apply the skills they learn throughout the Manufacturing Engineering program to implement a Capstone project. 

In addition to the 21 research spaces, six classrooms, four conference rooms (one of which is sponsored by Georgia Power), and 27 offices, the building includes a 1,500-square-foot colloquium space with a 500-square-foot balcony. This meeting space with sweeping views of campus is a flexible space for industry gatherings.

The $60 million project was funded by the state of Georgia. Stevens & Wilkinson is the design architect/architect of record and SmithGroup is the associate architect. The construction firm is JE Dunn Construction and the program manager is BDR Partners.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers approximately 140 different degree programs serving almost 27,000 students through 10 colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu.


Virtual Industry Expo a big success for Georgia Southern University engineering and computing students

The Allen. E. Paulson College of Engineering and Computing at Georgia Southern University is hailing the success of its first-ever Industry Expo, which was held on Dec. 3. The event was envisioned to be  held in person, but was hosted online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Industry Expo showcases the research and design projects of senior students in computer science, information technology, construction management and five engineering disciplines. Twenty-eight teams submitted projects for the event, which attracted more than 250 attendees. Projects ranged from service robots and vehicle design to a drive-thru delivery arm and an automatic door handle sanitizer.

“With 10 concurrent presentations going on at once, there was robust interaction between students, industry and faculty,” said Reinhold Gerbsch, DSc, director of industrial relations in the College of Engineering and Computing. “Students adapted well to the platform and the presentations were very professional with live Q&A. All-in-all it was a great success. The event definitely provided a platform to showcase student work and build strong relationships with our industry partners.”

Nearly four dozen industry professionals and College faculty judged the projects, which highlighted students’ classroom knowledge and skills as well as their creativity and ingenuity. There were six winning teams in two categories, engineering and computing. Computer science majors Alan Harris, Christopher Spradlin, Parker Hoskovec, Shingirai Kucherera and Xavier Hodges, won the CoolSys Computing Award for their first-place project, “Coastal Georgia Camellia Society Plant identification.” And electrical Engineering students Joshua Cipleu, Alexander Mikell and Jacob Vigliotta’s “EMG Controlled Electric Wheelchair” placed first for the CoolSys Engineering Award.

The manufacturing engineering group of Kristifer Bell, John Parker, Matt Johns, Elayna Arzolay, Charles Anumba and Hans Schumacher Aparicio, placed third for their project titled “Type III Anodizing System Development.” They collaborated with Daniel Defense to commission an anodizing system and develop a process that returns a hard-anodized aluminum coating. Bell, a co-leader, said his team was “honestly surprised” that their design won recognition. When the new Engineering and Research Building opens on the Statesboro Campus, it will be placed there for further improvements and testing.

Bell said he signed up for the project “because it seemed similar to an experience I could encounter in the future as a manufacturing engineer; taking a new piece of equipment, adding to a production line, developing a process and standard operating procedure, then performing a capability study of the process.”

Jackson Asiatico, a mechanical engineering major, said the expo exceeded his expectations.

“The virtual platform we used was one of the best platforms I have used since the pandemic in regard to its ease of use and the ability to split off into separate floors,” he said. “It allowed us to visit different booths on different floors, much like how it would work in-person. I would much prefer an in-person event, but the virtual platform did allow all of us to safely communicate and present our projects.”

Asiatico’s project, “Georgia Power Back-up Sump Pump,” consisted of both a mechanical engineering and an electrical engineering team. The mechanical team of five students included Asiatico, Christopher Wempner, Julia Meadows, Austin Boyd and Jack Steinagel. The three-member electrical team included Johan Lee, Oluwatomiyin Akintoye and Gabriel Greene. They were tasked with designing a backup electrical sump pump system to work in case the existing one failed.

“The most challenging part, aside from working during the pandemic, was gaining an  understanding of an industry that most of us were just exposed to,” Asiatico said. “The classroom gives you the tools and the knowledge to understand concepts in any industry, but there is some knowledge that can only be gained through research and experience. We were given an existing sump pump system, so we had to understand the choices that were made previously before we could design a system that works alongside the current one.”

A four-member computer science team presented “APPIAN Database for 402 CMXG Engineering” at the expo. Megan Delano, Gard Zeringue, William Dew and Hannah Vaughn collaborated with several people from Robins Air Force Base and the cloud computing company APPIAN. They were asked to take the existing ERTS system that is based in Microsoft Access and convert it to an APPIAN-based application that Robins Air Force Base can use to keep track of different projects.

According to Delano, the hardest part of the experience was getting used to the APPIAN designer and holding group meetings virtually. But she acknowledged the experience improved her ability to collaborate.

“I have enjoyed getting to know a new age way of building applications and databases,” she said. “In class, everything is so comprehensive and hands-on. With this project, we got to take advantage of low-code automation, which really opens a whole new world of database capabilities that would not be as attainable from building by hand from scratch.”

Event sponsors for the Industry Expo included CoolSys, a platinum award sponsor, Automation Systems and Control, Inc., a platinum technology sponsor, Graphic Packaging International and Evans General Contractors, gold technology sponsors. Other project sponsors for the expo included NEU-Spine Technologies, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Reynolds American, Graphic Packaging International and Uncle Shug’s Chicken Barn.

“With the support of our sponsors and University Conference Services, this virtual event exceeded our expectations in almost every way,” said Gerbsch. “Feedback from industry, faculty and student participants has been incredible. We are planning to make this an annual event to complement our Student Research Symposium which we host each spring. Should COVID-19 restrictions still be in place in the spring, we won’t hesitate to make the symposium 100% virtual as well.”  


MSEE Available on Armstrong, Liberty Campuses and VECTR Center in Warner Robins

Georgia Southern University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is now offering the Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MSEE) program on the Armstrong and Liberty campuses and to the new off-campus location, the Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource (VECTR) Center in Warner Robins, Georgia, providing an opportunity for engineers at Robins AFB, and the greater Macon area, the greater Savannah area and greater Hinesville/Ft. Stewart area to earn an advanced degree to get ready to make an immediate impact on their employers and their careers. 

The GS Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, with both thesis and non-thesis options, is offered in a hybrid format — which includes virtual face-to-face and online courses.  Three or more courses are offered each semester, with core courses offered on a one-year rotation, enabling students to complete the program in two years or less.  The degree program is open to the public and is now admitting applicants for both fall and spring 2021 semesters.

Apply to enroll for Spring 2021 prior to the November 15, 2020 deadline at the Jack N. Averitt College of Graduate Studies Office of Graduate Admissions at cogs.georgiasouthern.edu/admission.  Applicants for the VECTR Center are eligible for an application fee waiver.  To request a fee waiver and for more information, contact: Dr. Sungkyun Lim, MSEE Graduate Program Director, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, sklim@georgiasouthern.edu

The application deadline for Spring 2021 is November 15, 2020.  The application deadline for Fall 2021 is July 1, 2021.  Employers wishing to house in an off-campus location should contact Dr. Reinhold Gerbsch, Director of Industrial Relations, rgerbsch@georgiasouthern.edu.


Five Students Win GA Utility Contractors Assoc., Inc. Scholarships

Five Georgia Southern students in the B.S. in Construction degree program have been selected as recipients of the 2020 Georgia Utility Contractors Association, Inc. Scholarship Award.

Luiz Benitez, Andy Baskins, Jr., Adam Jones, Myla Kelly, and Charles Adams will each receive scholarships and invitations to attend the 2020 GUCA Fall Quarterly Meeting and Trade Show to be held Nov. 5 at the Loudermilk Center in Atlanta. Dr. Clinton Martin from the Department of Civil Engineering and Construction will accompany the students to the meeting to receive their scholarships.


Center for Applied Cyber Education director takes part in Cyber Exercise

On Sept. 24, Frank Katz, director of the Center for Applied Cyber Education at Georgia Southern, represented the University at Jack Voltaic 3.0, the first all-virtual cyber exercise hosted by the Army Cyber Institute. The exercise simulated a cyber attack in Savannah, and Katz observed the participants’ decisions during the attack to help better educate his cybersecurity students on what to do in similar scenarios.

Before the event, Katz said potential events in the simulation could include cranes at the Savannah ports being shut down, causing participants to have to figure out another way to unload a ship full of containers.

Director of the Center for Applied Cyber Education at Georgia Southern, Frank Katz

“My role is just to observe the exercise, take notes and think of what they’re doing and how it can be used in an academic environment because my goal is to implement this kind of training into our academic program,” said Katz.

In 2016, the Army Cyber Institute executed the first Jack Voltaic, a major city, multi-sector, public-private cyber exercise. It was the first step in building a framework to prepare for, prevent and respond to multi-sector cyber attacks on major cities. The newest version of the exercise will take the current COVID-19 pandemic into consideration.

“We are limited in terms of how we can respond to a cyber security incident because infrastructure is hampered by the fact that people may be out,” Katz said. “People may not be at work. They may have COVID-19 themselves. They may structure the exercise so that simulated characters in the case study are not present, and now participants have to react to that.”

Katz said it’s important for students to get experience with real-world problems like those that will be featured in the simulation because it prepares them for careers in cybersecurity.

“When our students graduate, we often send them to government agencies like the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense,” he said. “Once students get into their careers, they may actually have to be involved, not just in some kind of practice exercise, but in reality when it comes to something like this. This is really good training if we can implement what we learn in the exercise into our coursework.”

The regionally-focused exercise will include commercial, critical infrastructure supporting military deployment and global logistics operations. By conducting Jack Voltaic 3.0, Savannah business leaders and city officials have an opportunity to gain key insights and a better understanding of their respective gaps in incident management for a cyber or cyber-enabled disruption or destructive event. Intrepid Networks is enabling the live mission with communication, coordination and collaboration features designed for real-life incident management and response.

The Jack Voltaic experiment seeks to affect multiple sectors and require a coordinated local, state, federal and commercial response; provide a learning environment that enables participants to gain exposure, develop relationships, train, review critical gaps and shortfalls, and assess their response; conduct a virtual table-top event where both leadership and technical teams communicate and work within and outside their sectors; and commit to concrete, practical improvements to their resiliency and critical infrastructure preparedness.